The ‘ex-closeted gay jihadist’ bringing meditation to Jakarta

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01/07/2020

When Bagia Arif Saputra was growing up in a university town near Jakarta, becoming a jihadist seemed a natural choice for young men like him, who were steeped in the teachings of Islamic fundamentalism. Less easy was reconciling this identity with his sexuality. “I was living a double life,” says Saputra. “I would go to the campus mosque, try to focus on my prayers … and find myself checking out a guy and thinking, ‘Nice ass’. And then immediately, ‘Astaghfirullah [God forgive me]!’ So then I would have to redo my prayers. It was a vicious cycle.” Saputra, now 34 and openly gay, recounts this serenely at the meditation centre he runs in the centre of the Indonesian capital.

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